Here goes with a ten-minute freewrite to answer the question: If I’m reading for fun, do I usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Well I can’t avoid what will sound like the worst kind of totally non-committal answer: Both/And – because that’s how my reading habits actually are and always have been. It only takes a very quick glance at my bookshelves to see how a huge range of classics and modern fiction – novels and short stories – rubs shoulders with non-fiction titles covering theology, language learning, psychology, business and management, travel books, and hobby guides to a whole range of pursuits.
As I noted in describing my Ten Favourite Books, I almost always have both fiction and non-fiction on the go at any one time – my current pairing is Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate (all 800+ pages of it as a bedtime read!) and Brian D McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking (subtitled A year-long quest for spiritual formation, reorientation and activation).
Doing the 10 books thing and looking at my current, recent and next-to-read books list, makes me realise that, even when I’m reading fiction, it tends to be quite true to life. I’m not into fantasy or science fiction, and I’m not all that keen on crime or detective novels and really dislike anything wildly futuristic. My kind of fiction is the sort of story that could be – or could have been – someone’s real life. So most of the novels I read and enjoy the most are those based on an actual historical event – like my current novel, set at the battle of Stalingrad during World War II. A recent novel I particularly loved, and read at a single sitting, was Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway: emigrating to the USA, slavery and quilting – a story that someone might actually have lived in that era.
And then there’s the Bible – a daily read through some small portion of its vast and varied library of 66 books covering just about every literary genre there ever was. I have my favourites, but they shift over time. I’m currently loving being back in the amazing adventure of the early Christian church as described in the New Testament book of Acts. And I want to spend some time slowly re-reading some of the Old Testament prophets. Perhaps now I’ve got the blog going, I could challenge myself to blogging my way through one of them. That might stir up discussion that would go way beyond the fiction/non-fiction preference debate. Watch this space!